Crime & Courts

Woman who murdered Wichita mother, kidnapped baby to raise as her own sent to prison

Wichita newborn Sophia Gonzales, with her mother and father in November 2016. Her mother, 27-year-old Laura Abarca, was found shot to death in her Wichita apartment on Nov. 17, 2016.
Wichita newborn Sophia Gonzales, with her mother and father in November 2016. Her mother, 27-year-old Laura Abarca, was found shot to death in her Wichita apartment on Nov. 17, 2016. Special to the Eagle

A Texas woman who killed a Wichita mother and stole her newborn daughter will spend at least 55 years in prison, a Sedgwick County judge ruled Friday.

Yesenia Sesmas, 36, was convicted last month of first-degree premeditated murder, kidnapping and interference with parental custody. According to prosecutors, she faked a pregnancy during the same time her friend and former coworker, 27-year-old Laura Abarca, was pregnant and then drove to Wichita to kidnap the baby after Abarca gave birth.

Sesmas shot Abarca to death while the women were alone in Abarca’s apartment on Nov. 17, 2016. She then tucked Abarca’s 6-day-old infant, Sophia Gonzales, into a diaper bag and fled the state. Law enforcement quickly tracked Sesmas to a home in Dallas, where they found Sophia safe.

District Judge Terry Pullman, in imposing Sesmas’ sentence, called her murder-and-kidnapping plot “an assassination” that was carried out “in a cold and ruthless manner.”

He rejected arguments from defense attorney Jason Smartt that Sesmas deserved a more-lenient sentence than life in prison plus five years because she may have suffered from childhood abuse and mental health issues in adulthood, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

“She certainly has had some misguided and delusional beliefs” but she “believes herself to be a good person” who wants a second chance, Smartt said.

A Larned State Security Hospital evaluation found her mentally fit to stand trial, prosecutor Jason Roach said. Abarca’s shooting was “a daylight unprovoked murder” where she had no warning and no chance to defend herself or her baby, Roach argued.

Sesmas claims Abarca agreed to give her the baby but changed her mind at the last minute. She claims the shooting was accidental.

Several members of Abarca’s family gave tearful speeches about Abarca’s life and her excitement to be a mother in court Friday.

Speaking through a Spanish-language interpreter, they said she waited eagerly for Sophia’s arrival and spent hours preparing to welcome her home.

“During her six days that she was a mother, she was a great mother,” Abarca’s mother, Guadalupe Nogueda said.

Now, they said, they’re left trying to figure out what to tell Sophia about how and why her mom died when she’s old enough to understand.

Sophia is nearly two years old now. She’s being raised by her father and other relatives.

“When she looks around for her mom and when she calls other women ‘mom,’ that hurts,” Sophia’s father, Manuel Gonzales said.

“I don’t know what I’m going to tell her when she asks about her mother.”

Read Next

Read Next

  Comments